Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Youngest Confederate General

Confederate Major General Stephen Dodson Ramseur died October 20th 1864 from wounds received the day before at the Battle of Cedar Creek.

Stephen Dodson Ramseur was born May 31st 1837, the son of Jacob Able and Lucy Mayfield (Dodson) Ramseur in Lincolnton, North Carolina. His family and friends knew him as Dod.  Ramseur studied math at Davidson College, and then finished his education at the United States Military Academy at West Point.  He graduated in 1860, ranked 14th in his class, he was commissioned Second Lieutenant in the United States Artillery.

Ramseur resigned his commission and joined the Confederate Army before his home state had even seceded.  On May 27th 1861 he was made Lieutenant Colonel in the 3rd North Carolina Infantry.  During the Peninsula Campaign Ramseur commanded the artillery in Confederate Brigadier General John B Magruder’s division.  In April 1862 he became the Colonel of the 49th North Carolina Infantry.  He led a charge and was wounded during the Battle of Malvern Hill.  Ramseur was unable to return to duty until after the Battle of Antietam, when he was given command of a brigade of four North Carolina regiments in Confederate Brigadier General Robert E Rodes’ division.  On November 1st 1862, Ramseur would be promoted to Brigadier General, and at only 25 was the youngest Confederate General at the time.  He led his brigade against the Union right at the Battle of Chancellorsville, and he would be wounded again.  At the Battle of Gettysburg he led his brigade against the right flank of the Union First Corps on Oak Hill, pushing them all the way through the town to Cemetery Hill.  Ramseur was in the action at the Battles of Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House, and Cold Harbor.


Ramseur was part of Confederate General Jubal A Early’s Corps during the Valley Campaign of 1864.  During the Battle of Cedar Creek on October 19th 1864 the Confederates made a surprise morning attack on a Union camp, routing most of them.  But the Confederates being hungry and worn out stopped, fell out of ranks and started rummaging through the Union camp.  Ramseur pulled together a few hundred of his men, and with those soldiers stood off a counter attack made by Union General Philip H Sheridan for over an hour.  Ramseur leading his men had three horses shot out from under him, before being shot through the lungs.  He was captured by a member of the 1st Vermont Cavalry, and was taken to Sheridan’s headquarters at the Belle Grove Mansion near Meadow Mills, Virginia where he died.  Ramseur’s last words were, "Bear this message to my precious wife—I die a Christian and hope to meet her in heaven."  He is buried in the St Luke’s Episcopal Cemetery in Lincolnton, North Carolina. 

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